Tomatoes appeal to the fifth and sixth tastes
July 1, 2012
by Laurie Gorton
Tomatoes, a fruit that many mistake for a vegetable, contribute lycopene, an antioxidant compound associated with eye health. The lycopene content actually rises when processing tomatoes.
As popular as tomatoes are for pizza toppings, they bring nutritional advantages beyond their pleasing flavor. Tomatoes are a source of lycopene, a light-and-heat-stable carotenoid coloring with antioxidant functions. Many consumers recognize the compound’s association with lowering the risk of macular degeneration and are learning of its benefits to skin, bone and prostate health. When employed as color additives, lycopenes tend to be low in usage level, but the food processor still earns a halo effect from its presence, according to Doug Lynch, vice-president of business development, LycoRed, Orange, NJ.
“Lycopenes are good replacements for cochineal and the so-called Southampton food colors that now require a warning label in Europe,” Mr. Lynch said.
The company also derives its Sante ingredients from tomato serum, the liquid that results when tomatoes are crushed. The liquid is dried onto maltodextrins, and the resulting ingredient acts primarily as a flavor enhancer. Although it carries no tomato flavor, it can be labeled as “tomato extract” or “tomato concentrate.”
Like its LycoRed lycopene color additives, this ingredient is made from lycopene- and glutamic-acid-rich tomatoes. “The flavor enhancement it allows enables reduction of sodium content by 30%,” Mr. Lynch said. This effect occurs thanks to the fifth (umami) and sixth (kokumi) tastes activated by the calcium receptors on the tongue. “Umami is the savory taste, while kokumi heightens the sensation of other flavors,” he explained.